HOUSTON — The METRO board of directors is expected to vote Thursday on a proposed plan that aims to increase speeds and commute times.

Jerome Gray, executive vice president with METRO, says they’ve been logging longer travel times and slower speeds on all five Metro HOV/HOT Lanes. Paired with projected growth for Houston, and board members see a need for change.

“Those speeds have been declining and that is not a good thing,” Gray said. “Our goal is to get those lanes moving constantly at the posted speed.”

The proposal includes I-45 North and South, Highway 59/69 North and South and Highway 290.

Gray said they are federally mandated to keep those HOV/HOT Express Lanes moving at a minimum of 45 mph.

The proposal would make all these lanes HOV only from 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m., then again from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. For all those lanes, except 59 North, the HOV requirement would increase from two people per vehicle to three during peak times, 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Under this plan, tolls would increase, too. In some cases, they would increase to $3.50 more per ride.

“Our goal is to get as many people out of those main lanes, on to buses, and into carpools so that we can all have a smoother commute,” Gray said.

The toll increases for single occupant vehicles (SOV) break down as follows:

I-45 N - 6 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., tolls would rise from $7 to $8.

I-45 N - 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., tolls would rise from $5 to $8.

I-45 S - 5 a.m. to 6 a.m., tolls would rise from $2.25 to $2.50.

I-45 S - 6 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., tolls would rise from $6.50 to $8.00.

I-45 S - 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., tolls would rise from $2.25 to $2.50.

I-45 S - 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., tolls would rise from $4.50 to $8.00.

290 - 6 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., tolls would rise from $7 to $8.

290 - 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., tolls would rise from $5 to $8.

59 N - 5 a.m. to 6 a.m., tolls would rise from $1 to $2.50.

59 N - 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., tolls would rise from $2.25 to $2.50.

59 N 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., tolls would rise from $2.25 to $4.50.

59 S - 5 a.m. to 6 a.m., tolls would rise from $1 to $2.50.

59 S - 6 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., tolls would rise from $6.50 to $8.

59 S - 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., tolls would rise from $2.25 to $2.50.

59 S - 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., tolls would rise from $4.50 to $8.

The vote is scheduled for 10am Thursday. Gray does expect it to pass.

If the proposal does pass, the changes would not take effect until June. Up until that time, METRO will change signage and implement a marketing and education campaign.

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